18 Jun Daan Botlek, Uplifting
Daan Botlek, Uplifting
18 June 2018
Daan Botlek is a black sheep in the field of art. Even though the Dutch creator is famous for his wide and impressively achieved wall paintings, it wouldn’t do justice to label him as a street artist as his body of works is diverse, complex and becomes meaningful only when considered as a whole.
From miniature drawings to huge wall paintings Botlek’s artistic style, full of mysterious and fascinating imagination is immediately recognizable.
In the lineage of Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, Botlek plays with architecture, perspectives and impossible spaces with a humorous acid twist. When confronted to one of his pieces, the viewer often experiences estrangement: what is actually happening? What is here to see?
Botlek plays with his characters, as he plays with the viewers. He draws bridges between paradoxes: the finite and infinite, the miniature and the gigantic, the bi-dimensional and tri-dimensional, the figurative and the abstract, the possible and the impossible, in a very universal way which touches people of all cultures.
“Each place, like this crazy and vibrant city of Bangkok brings its own inspiration about the energy, but it doesn’t really translate into my work, what I do could be anywhere.”
Botlek’s signature people play with codes of gravity and matter, floating in the air, crossing walls and floors, for the amusement and astonishment of the general public. His interactive installations made for public spaces have reached an important international audience for their originality, playfulness and direct visual impact. When experiencing these humorous installations the viewer is absorbed by the surreal compositions in which he can act and take part in a memorable picture.
Daan Botlek is constantly invited to participate in major street art festivals around the globe and has become a renowned figure in Bangkok, where he participated in the 2 editions of the Bukruk urban arts festival (2013 and 2016) delivering 2 major wall art projects still visible today.
He also held a solo exhibition with the Toot Yung art center in 2015 and for the 2016 edition of Bukruk at the P. Tendercool design space.
Daan even admits that he has developed particular bonds with the Big Mango, where he is about to settle down and create his own long-awaited workshop.
“Now I have a special relationship with Bangkok. The first time I came was nearly 5 years ago, when I was invited for the first Bukruk festival. I didn’t know anything about the city and actually had a lot of prejudice! I thought it was too much party tourism, but I met people who had been living here for many years and they showed me the nice and quiet places… Then I fell in love with the city, so I came back for a residency at Toot Yung Gallery and I stayed for a whole year. Later, I was invited for Bukruk second edition, that’s when I made this wall at Saphan Taksin, and now I am here again for this commissioned installation!”
The Only way is Up
The “UP LIFTING” installation, specially conceived for the central lobby of Mercury Ville Chitlom is the first of its kind in Thailand with the public being invited to step inside the installation to take pictures with various perspective options, making the art piece interactive and fun.
“The client asked for a design which would generate traffic, where people could take pictures,” recounts Daan, “for me it’s more interesting to create something for people to interact with. That’s how I came up with this installation where people can integrate to the artwork itself. A kind of a first, even if I already did a few things with which people can interact, like with some walls with stairs allowing people to climb and appear as part of the drawing.”
For that kind of work, Daan has first to figure out what the environment is, especially with such installation.
“I did a few before and there’s always some interaction with the space itself, that’s very important to know which part of the building I can touch, in which part I can screw, for example. For this open space I made a lot of sketches, but as it will be used as some kind of market it didn’t really work and I had to change my mind. It’s very difficult to make sketches in advance, I really need to see the place, to know how the audience will see it, walk through or past it, from which perspective it’s going to be seen.”
For many years, Daan has been travelling all the time all around the planet and has not had a studio… “Not even a house, as I was travelling from one project to another. Most of my work is site-specific, which explains why so far it didn’t make much sense for me to work with a gallery, even if there have been a few exceptions, like the residency in Toot Yung few years ago. To work with a gallery, you need to have a studio, and that’s what I want now. Then I’ll be able to make plans for an exhibition. Over the years I’ve got so many ideas, it’s about time to focus on other things and translate that to works, like objects, physical stuff you can collect, other kinds of paintings, installations…”